I ended up staying two nights as the weather was really bad the first day and I wanted to see the white sands when the weather was good. The campsite was also really nice, situated at the foot of the hills of the Organ Mountain National Recreation Area overlooking the planes bellow which were actually the White sands missile testing site.
Location: Aguirre Springs Camp Ground
Address: Aguirre Springs Rd, Las Cruces, NM 88011
Cost: USD $7
Facilities: Waterless restroom, picnic tables with covered area, camp BBQ’s.
Once the weather cleared up in the planes, the clouds just wouldn’t leave the mountains, I was hoping to do a hike while I was there, I headed to White Sands National Monument. On the way I saw a sign to the White Sands Missile museum, so thought I would check it out. The museum was pretty cool ran through the history and evolution of the different missiles and how they worked. I found this pretty fascinating because I’ve always wondered how the different guidance systems worked. It was also amazing to see what they could achieve so long ago, for example, the side winder missile which is still in use today, was originally developed in the 1950’s along with allot of the other missiles, I assume there are allot more that aren’t on display being developed now but was still amazing to see what was achieved from such early technology. The other thing I found fascinating was that they would test the long range missiles by setting them off at another missile testing facility and land/crash them in the white sands or vice versa, I guess they have to test them somehow. They would also use different drones (rocket, plane and helicopter) to train and test the abilities of the missiles.
Oh and there was also a solar eclipse going on… I think where I was it got to about 60-70% you couldn’t really notice, it got a little bit eerie, but you could’ve gone the day without knowing. I think I was driving when it was at the maximum but captured this shot.
So I get to the White Sands National monument visitor centre and head in to ask a few questions, I was considering staying the night on the dunes. I then head back to my car to head into the dunes, its a little bit of a drive from the visitor centre and you cant walk. I hit the key and the Van turns over and over but won’t start (again my diagnosis was wrong) I’m now thinking it has something to do with the van being warm because its only happened after I’ve been driving for a while, so I let it sit for a bit and try again, no luck. Now a young guy, William, who was also at the Missile museum earlier had turned up and he asked if I need a jump, I didn’t but we get chatting. He then offers to drive me into the dunes since I was stranded. So I grab my bag and some water and jump in with him, we decide to do the longest trek, the Alkali Flat Trail which was the longest about 8km (5mile). The place is pretty amazing, these white gypsum sand dunes in the middle of the mountains, the whole thing sits on a plane which is at an elevation of about 1300m (4000′). The trek was pretty easy, following the black diamond markers out across the dunes and back in a big loop. A few little lizards scurry past, and in the base of the dunes some shrubs live, but other than that it is completely barren. The sand was so white that it was actually cool to touch, even though the temperature would’ve been high 30’s and the sun was beating down.
I get back to the Van and it still doesn’t want to kick over, being hot and bothered and not really in the mood to be playing around under the bonnet (hood) I call AAA and sign up (probably should’ve done this already but I had faith in her (my Van). I get the call-out happening and about 30 mins in I’m on the phone organising a tow (the original call out was just for a jump so when the guy called I told him I didn’t need a jump so I had to call AAA back to organise a tow truck) and while I’m on the phone to AAA I try her one more time and to my delight she fires up, so I cancel the tow and drive straight to Alamogordo (the closest town about 20min), the AAA guy I was talking to gave me a good garage I can go to to get the Van looked at. Once I get there I head to the garage first and book in, it was about 6pm by now. I then head to AutoZone to see if I can get my error codes read, hoping it might turn something up. Turns out my car computer is pretty basic and you just short out 2 connections in a plug and the engine light flashes codes to you. This didn’t turn up much, just a vacuum issue which I already knew about, but the guy who was helping me had had one of these vans before so gave me a few ideas of what it might be. So I went to work pulling it apart and getting a couple of modules tested and looking at few different things, nothing tested bad but I did fiddle with a few things and find a possible vacuum leak in the vacuum reservoir, so got a new one ordered to the a shop in Toas for when I got there in a couple of days, so for now I plugged the hose going to it with a screw. I then put the car back together and started her up, she fired up straight away and I could’ve sworn she was running better. The next morning she fired up perfectly again, I still headed to the shop to ask them a few questions and just suss out weather it would be worth my while to put her in. In the end I decided not to, they had a couple of ideas of what it might be, but said they wouldn’t be able to tell for sure unless it was playing up (which has only happened 3 times now. So I kept moving on to Santa Fe.